By NATARIO McKENZIE
Two major cruise lines yesterday spoke out to reassure The Bahamas they remained committed to major projects in the islands.
Royal Caribbean International’s president and chief executive Michael Bayley said the company is ‘committed’ to the Grand Lucyan’s revival and development of the Freeport cruise port.
Responding to concerns expressed by Tourism Minister Dionisio D’Aguilar Mr Bayley said: “While we are all focused on offering assistance with the Hurricane recovery we would like to assure the Minister and people of The Bahamas that we remain committed to this project and to the long term success of the Bahamian tourism industry.”
Mr D’Aguilar recently stated the Grand Lucayan is completely insured in case of catastrophic loss and expressed the hope that any damage to the resort as a result of Hurricane Dorian will not jeopardize the government’s negotiations with Holistica – a joint venture company formed by Royal Caribbean International and ITM Group – on the renovation and development of Freeport’s cruise port and the Grand Lucayan resort complex.
Negotiations between the government and Holistica could be finished near the end of the year.
Lucayan Renewal Holdings (LRH) chairman Michael Scott told Tribune Business the impact of Dorian will not impact those negotiations but noted that effect of the storm on Grand Bahama has heightened the urgency to get the Grand Lucayan property operating again.
“The hotel remains structurally sound and is currently hosting over 700 Bahamians in Grand Bahama with the Grand Lucayan serving as an emergency hurricane shelter, all other hurricane shelters having been compromised and unusable .We have very courageous engineering and security teams in place protecting and managing the property during this cataclysmic and apocalyptic event,” said Mr Scott.
Reporting on the storm’s impact to Royal Caribbean’s private island Coco Cay, the company said: “After evacuating employees we gave them options to stay in a secure Nassau hotel or return to their homes. Employees were allowed to bring families to the hotel. No one was on Coco Cay during the storm. As Dorian finally begins to move away from Bahamas, our primary focus remains helping our employees and their families who were impacted by the hurricane. Because we evacuated CocoCay before Dorian’s arrival, our only ability to assess damage so far comes from webcams. Those images appear to show the structures on CocoCay came through the storm without visible structural damage.”
Royal Caribbean said its team would arrive on Coco Cay Wednesday to make a more detailed assessment and begin storm cleanup. “We hope to welcome guests back beginning with the arrival of Navigator of the Seas on Saturday—depending, of course, on what we learn on-site. We are communicating all itinerary changes directly with affected guests. We appreciate their understanding of the challenges associated with a storm of this size. We are keeping the people of the Bahamas in our thoughts and prayers, and we are in communication with the Bahamian government on how we can best help in recovery efforts.”
Carnival Corporation CEO Arnold Donald in a statement yesterday also affirmed the company’s committment to its projects in The Bahamas.
“In recent weeks, there have been questions about our commitment to two major projects on the islands of Grand Bahama and Half Moon Cay. We remain fully committed to those projects as part of the recovery and rebuilding process. We know this is a difficult time. But we have no doubt that the unyielding spirit of the Bahamian people will overcome, recover, rebuild and be stronger and more resilient than ever,” Mr Donald said in a statement.
“On behalf of all of us at Carnival Corporation and our cruise line brands, let me begin by saying our thoughts and prayers go out to the great people of The Bahamas — our friends and partners for many years. It was very emotional seeing reports of Hurricane Dorian’s impact over the past couple days. Our hearts go out to those who have lost friends and loved ones, and whose homes and businesses have been destroyed or damaged.”
Mr Donald also offered Carnival’s commitment to help in the rebuilding efforts. “Knowing and working over many years with so many Bahamians, we have long admired the strong spirit, determination and love of life they exhibit. We look forward to supporting their forthcoming hard work to rebuild, recover and again welcome tourists and cruise guests with open arms to their beautiful country. To our friends in The Bahamas, please know you will not be alone in your effort. All of us at Carnival Corporation pledge to work with you. We have been and remain in constant contact with government officials as they determine the highest priorities for both the short term and long term.”